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Rambling around Keno, Tulelake

Destination: Tulelake, California, 87 miles southeast of Ashland.

To begin with, Lane’s car battery was dead. Instead of our usual Highway 140 route to “the other side,” I picked him up in Talent and figured we might as well tackle the Greensprings, Highway 66. I felt I could use a refresher navigating extreme curves as fast as possible without guardrails and with a pack of impatient Harley riders on my tail.

We eventually made it to Greensprings Inn, where the crazy bikers had passed and beat us to the 66 Smokehouse BBQ restaurant. A cooler sunny day welcomed us amid the pines for lunch on the deck. We fought off a gang of thuggish yellow jackets from our burgers (insects, not bikers), which proved worthwhile. Then, we were on our way to Tulelake.

We would have arrived at our target destination sooner had we not met James in Keno. James the philosopher. Every small town has one, who should really be mayor.

Mayor James lives strategically across from the Whoa Tavern, where I parked Giovanni amid a squadron of dusty pickups for which he has not forgiven me. Lane and I revel in the thrill of living on the edge by wandering the streets of small town America, snapping pictures and meeting locals.

We first noticed James’ cats. Anyone with cats is approachable in our book. “They’re all rescues,” James said. I thought I detected slurring. We bent low to pet the nearest cat, and I began counting and wondering how many lurked within the wreckage of his yard.

I noticed bright red liquid swirling in a Ball canning jar in James’ left hand, and the slurring made sense. He seemed to know a lot about biodiversity and told us he was a master mechanic. “A 747 could fall down right here, and I could fix it,” he said.

I wished one would. But that would have further delayed our arrival in Tulelake.

I continued observing James’ setup and noticed a serious firearm at his hip. At one point during conversation, he moved it around as illustration for a story, and the barrel briefly targeted my innards. I looked at Lane, who seemed pretty relaxed.

About then I blurted out, “What’s the red stuff in the jar?”

He lifted it toward my nose and said with a grin, “Cranberry juice and tequila.” One whiff told me it was light on juice.

Well, James had a lot to say on just about any subject you could think up. We liked him and found him an interesting character, but we tore ourselves away so we could make it to Tulelake before sundown.

I’d shared our plans with a sweet couple from Klamath Falls I’d met at Jacksonville Visitor Center, where I work. She said to be sure to visit Mike and Wanda’s, a restaurant in Tulelake.

Once at our destination, I pulled over to Google Mike and Wanda’s, thinking we might snag a piece of homemade pie. The Google map dame took me into a highly questionable area insisting the restaurant was on the left. All I saw was an abandoned goose-down pillow factory.

“This can’t be right,” I said with conviction.

After locating Mike and Wanda’s, we learned they closed on Sunday. Nothing was open there on Sunday, or any other day of the week. Before racing to the Polar Bear drive-up in Merrill for ice cream, more snooping was necessary.

I wanted a closer gander at Tule Goose and Pillow Co. Lane went off snapping pictures of odd buildings and random trees while I scoped out what oddities lay amid the generous rubble behind the factory windows. Check out my Facebook page for proof. There were cobwebbed bowling trophies, a trophy with a gold pig atop and one long-deceased duck.

Later, I Googled the company and discovered an impressive website not akin to the building. Turns out the company is thriving in Klamath Falls. So if you need a luxurious down pillow or comforter, phone Debbie at 541-892-5810. She handmakes them.

Happy rambling.

Peggy Dover is a free-range freelance writer/author. Reach her at peggydover@gmail.com.